A number of people emailed me after the last post to say that there was no way for them to stop checking their email 35 times a day. I hope this follow up blog post can help.
I’ve been using these strategies for years in order to lower the amount of time I spend on email to good effect.
Why check email once a day?
- Incoming messages distract, if you ignore them you’ll get important work done.
- So you can spend more time enjoying your life, learning, or simply sitting in the sun during this gorgeous summer.
- You spend less time reacting to other people and more time on your own work.
- Because your productivity will skyrocket when you aren’t flipping back and forth between email every five minutes.
Email is a non-urgent form of communication that’s weaseled it’s way into becoming a daily obligation for the entire world.
I’ve seen people out at bars at night frantically checking up on their emails between drinks, how silly is that? I’ve seen people sitting on the beach flipping through their email.
Stop! Enjoy the life you have, because eventually you won’t have it anymore.
The funny thing is, when you make people aware of the fact that you only check email once a day, in most cases they’ll understand wholeheartedly. Most people don’t make the decision to define how often they check email, so they end up spending most of their lives checking it.
In most cases it’s essential to give important people a way to get in touch with you for emergencies. Most of us have cell phones, so give your most important clients and family your number and make it clear if there is a real emergency to get in touch with you there instead of over email.
Here are five simple steps to work towards checking email once per day.
1. Set a time to check your email. I check email around noon, after I’ve completed all important work that I had to do during the morning, such as writing this blog post. If you want to start checking email twice per day first, check again at 4pm to make sure everything is taken care of. I used to do this two-pronged approach earlier in my business, but have recently stepped back to checking once per day.
2. Filter all unessential email to the archive or trash. We receive a lot of junk mail. Most people just read it mindlessly. Don’t be a zombie, filter that junk out! If a message you never want to see again comes into your box, create a filter (this is easiest with gmail) to automatically archive similar messages. If you really never want to see it again send it directly to trash.
3. Process all emails to done in one sitting. Sit down, open up your email box, and process the whole inbox until it’s empty in one sitting. This means you have to make judgement calls: can you act on this immediately? Do you need to act at all? If the answer is the latter, archive now! If an email will take up a few hours of your time, set it aside on your to-do list (if you have one.) and continue down the list. Your inbox needs to be at zero after you’re done.
4. Respond to most emails with 2-3 sentences. I get a lot of emails that are written like novels. I’m very grateful for the fan mail, but most ideas can be condensed down to a paragraph or less. The problem comes when you respond. We humans have a tendency to respond in equal length to long messages, this is the wrong approach to take! Respond to every email in less than 3 sentences and you’ll save a ton of time. Yes, some people might get annoyed, but that’s life.
5. Make it more difficult to contact you. Most people put their email addresses out in the open for everyone to see. Don’t do this if you want to check email once per day! You have to install barriers of entry to your email address, or only give it to people who you want to talk to. For instance, my contact page has a list of requirements to read over before sending email (because I got a lot of it otherwise.)
If you follow these instructions, eventually you’ll be able to reduce your email checking to once per day. Good luck!
Gwen Bell also uses this email strategy, and she’s one of the most influential women in technology!